Body image and steroid use in male bodybuilders

Int J Eat Disord. 1995 Sep;18(2):159-65. doi: 10.1002/1098-108x(199509)18:2<159::aid-eat2260180208>;2-3.


This study was designed to examine the association between body image and eating-related attitudes among male bodybuilders in relation to two athletic comparison groups, runners and martial artists. It was also of interest to examine whether steroid use may be associated with body image disturbances in athletes. The volunteer sample of 139 male athletes recruited from fitness centers comprised 43 bodybuilders, 48 runners, and 48 martial artists (tae kwon do practitioners). Standardized measures of body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, drive for bulk, bulimia, self-esteem, depression, maturity fears, and perfectionism as well as questionnaires designed to measure attitudes toward steroids, and rates of steroid use were administered in a manner that encouraged disclosure. Bodybuilders reported significantly greater body dissatisfaction, with a high drive for bulk, high drive for thinness, and increased bulimic tendencies than either of the other athletic groups. In addition bodybuilders reported significant elevations on measures of perfectionism, ineffectiveness, and lower self-esteem. They also reported the greatest use of anabolic steroids and most liberal attitudes towards using steroids. Steroid users reported that the most significant reason for using steroids was to improve looks. Steroid users reported an elevated drive to put on muscle mass in the form of bulk, greater maturity fears, and enhanced bulimic tendencies than nonusers. The results suggest that male bodybuilders are at risk for body image disturbance and the associated psychological characteristics that have been commonly reported among eating disorder patients. These psychological characteristics also appear to predict steroid use in this group of males.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Martial Arts / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / psychology
  • Weight Lifting / psychology*


  • Anabolic Agents